What is slavery?

We explain what slavery is, what are its main characteristics and its difference with feudalism.

  1. What is slavery?

Slavery or slavery is a mode of production based on labor forced , under which receives no profit or remuneration in return for their efforts and not also enjoys any labor rights , social, or political, being reduced to the property of the master or employer, as if it were an object.

Slavery was very frequent in ancient times , in which it even constituted a legal figure, contemplated by the State , which was imposed on those defeated in battle and their families , or those captured and subjected in militarily conquered regions. You could also become a slave for debts (individual pressure) or for having committed a crime .

Virtually all ancient civilizations practiced slavery , and the cultural flourishing of ancient Greece and Rome was largely due to an economic system supported by slave labor. Something similar happened with the European Empires, once the Middle Ages ended, who colonized and conquered the African continent and subjected many of its inhabitants to the condition of slaves. That is why Africans arrive in America, forcibly transported by Europeans to serve as labor in the colonization of the New Continent.

Slavery was abolished in most Western countries between the 19th and 20th centuries , and today it is considered a crime against humanity, punished internationally by global treaties and organizations.

However, modern forms of slavery continue to exist , especially taking advantage of the poorest and most defenseless citizens of neighboring countries, as is the case in Southeast Asia and even in specific cases in Latin America. Certain forms of prostitution are also considered modern forms of sexual slavery.

  1. Characteristics of slavery

Slaves were individuals devoid of any kind of legal, union or social protection . They formed the basis of the social pyramid, and were just above the pack animals, in many cases being treated even worse than them. His working days were extensive and overwhelming, and his nature responded to the wishes and needs of the master, who was his owner. These tasks could be cleaning, cooking, sexual servitude, raising the children of the master, labor under construction, cultivation, demolition or even war .

Slaves did not receive wages , nor did they have labor rights of any kind; but the possession of slaves forced the master to provide them with food , clothing, roof and work tools. In cases where the slave could legally free himself, he should restore to the master the value of his work in money, as compensation for the loss of his estate .

In addition, the condition of a slave was hereditary , and children born of a slave could also be subject to this condition. It was not unusual, in cases of contract slavery, for children to submit as slaves to pay the debts inherited from the father. Once their work covered the equivalent of the amount owed, they could return to their freedom .

There were vendors and slave traders , who were in charge of supplying the masters with new slaves, captured in other cultures of remote geographies, or who could be abandoned children, unrecognized children, etc.

  1. Slavery and feudalism

The slave system proliferated in ancient times but in the transition to the Middle Ages suffered a setback. The feudal system, which consisted of the division of the Kingdoms into small plots controlled militarily and legally by a landowner, maintained the figure of the slave for specific cases, but preferred that of the servant who, after all, worked voluntarily for protection and order of the feudal lord, subject to his laws and designs.

However, the servants were free and could choose where to go , they could choose which feudal lord to serve, and they were full citizens, despite constituting the lowest social class of the Middle Ages, dominated by the Aristocracy and controlled by the Clergy. The work of the servants was paid with a part of their agricultural production (the rest went to the landowner) and with military protection against wars and barbarian invasions, frequent for the time.

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